Center for Regenerative Design & Collaboration
Turning plastic waste into a low-carbon concrete additive
The Center for Regenerative Design & Collaboration’s (CRDC) vision is to transform unwanted waste plastic into an additive that can be used in the production of low-carbon concrete, directly addressing two of the world’s biggest environmental challenges.
During the initial stage of our ongoing partnership, we joined forces with CRDC to validate a new product in their portfolio, RESIN8 CORE. This product built on the success of their existing product, RESIN8, a ground-breaking solution that combines concrete and plastics.
CRDC's innovative process involves using various types of plastic waste as raw materials, which are then mixed with minerals and processed through extrusion to create RESIN8. This lightweight mineral polymer can be utilised in both structural and non-structural concrete applications.
RESIN8 CORE not only captures carbon but also has the potential to strengthen the concrete itself, and CRDC asked us to help it better understand the science behind this process. CRDC’s ultimate aim is to establish a scalable system and devise an optimal business strategy for a global rollout.
Don Thomson, CRDC’s founder and CEO, had an ambition to take waste plastic out of the environment and use that waste plastic as an additive in the manufacture of low-carbon concrete. Starting with the RESIN8 CORE prototype, we collaborated to understand the scientific mechanisms of their product through experimentation and research.
Nailing the science
First, there was a need to understand the product from scientific first principles, enabling our team and CRDC to use that knowledge as a basis for improvements. Together, we conducted an in-depth overview of the academic literature as well as defined a programme of work and test protocols to be followed.
Working as one team, we aligned on an iterative process of make, test, evaluate, and re-test. Our agile approach has helped identify key process levers and how these may be optimised, whilst also providing a level of rigour that ensures correct conclusions are drawn.
Throughout the engagement, CRDC measured and provided data on key process parameters and shared the compressive strength of final concrete samples. We then performed additional investigation; studying the particles sizes under a scanning electron microscope and conducting elemental analysis using EDX and FTIR spectroscopy to confirm the nature of the samples. With this data and extensive academic literature research, we provided CRDC with the insights needed to understand the relationship between the additive and concrete matrix.
A perfect fit
CRDC understands concrete and engineering but required the additional scientific knowledge and test facilities that we brought to get under the skin of their novel RESIN8 CORE product. This knowledge will be invaluable to CRDC as they optimise their process further and move towards an industrialisation and commercialisation phase.
Our relationship with CRDC is highly collaborative. We spent time working at their lab and in their factory, adopting an agile mindset meaning we can continually adjust our plans based on collective learnings and agreed prioritisation. It’s a dynamic approach to development that evolves on a weekly basis.
Working towards a shared vision
The work so far represents the start of a journey. There are still some key questions that will need to be addressed over time. For instance, what are the exact concrete formulations and additive replacements percentages that provide the largest benefits? What is the most appropriate approach and product format for commercialisation?
With this phase of the work completed, CRDC are on the path to understanding how and why the unique product they are creating can work, before moving on to defining a business strategy where we will support them in their scale up and commercialisation ambitions. And with factories in place all over the world, CRDC is primed to make the most of these ambitions.
This work represents a unique opportunity for communities to use their problematic waste to help build in a more environmentally conscious way. Up to 320 million tonnes of unrecyclable plastic are produced annually, with two-thirds ending up in landfill or polluting our waterways and oceans. And concrete is the second most used substance in the world and its production contributes around seven percent of the world’s total carbon emissions.
This solution could not only be a new way to give waste plastic a second life, but to also help decarbonise the concrete industry – a holy grail for both the planet and the construction industry.